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Biden hosts Iraqi prime minister at White House amid soaring regional tensions

Anadolu Agency WORLD
Published April 16,2024

US President Joe Biden hosted Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani at the White House Monday for bilateral talks after Iran launched an unprecedented attack on Israel that has the region on a knife's edge ahead of Tel Aviv's expected retaliation.

Speaking in the Oval Office ahead of the closed-door meeting, Biden says the US is committed to the security of US partners in the region, "including Iraq."

"The partnership between Iraq and the United States is critical," he said. "We've seen over the last decade as our troops have served side-by-side to defeat ISIS. And we've seen this in our strategic framework agreement as well."

Speaking alongside Biden, al-Sudani said via a translator that the relationship between Washington and Baghdad is at a critical moment, saying that Iraq is seeking to forge a comprehensive long-term partnership.

"Under the spirit of partnership, our views might be divergent about what's happening in the region," he said. "But we are certain of international law, international humanitarian law, and the responsibility to protect under the law of war, and we reject any aggression against civilians, especially women and children."

The sit-down was originally announced in late March as an opportunity for the leaders to discuss matters in the bilateral relationship, including economic development and the fight against Daesh/ISIS. But Israel's April 1 attack on Iran's consulate in Damascus, Syria escalated tensions throughout the region.

Tehran followed through on its avowed retaliation for the bombing of its diplomatic facility, which killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps advisors including two top generals, on Saturday by launching an unprecedented barrage of missiles and drones on Israel.

Nearly all of the ballistic missiles were intercepted, including many that were shot down by the US and allies outside of Israeli airspace. The US has acknowledged using fighter aircraft, as well as Navy destroyers to down dozens of drones and missiles. At least one Iranian missile was downed by a Patriot battery as it flew near Erbil, Iraq, a senior administration official told reporters Sunday.

Biden said the US-Iraqi relationship "is pivotal for our nations, for the Middle East, and I believe, for the world."